Interview with the Editor-in-Chief of Sustainable Earth: Part 1

Prof. Peter Newman, the Editor-in-Chief of BMC’s new journal Sustainable Earth, talks about his motivation for sustainability and the need for a new journal in part 1 of this interview. Special thanks to Linda Blagg at Curtin University for the filming and recording of the interview.

Interviewer: So Peter, what made you first interested in sustainability?

Peter: Well, sustainability, it’s a bit of a saga. I began in chemistry and did a PHD, I then went to the Netherlands and studied environmental science, and then at Stanford, I was there during the oil crisis in the early ’70s, and that set me up because oil became of interest to everybody, and particularly how cities used them. But nobody knew how, and how much, so we started collecting data on cities, and I’ve been doing that ever since.

So the whole idea of the metabolism of cities, the resources they consume as well as the waste outputs, which is more the environmental side, was right on the agenda and I’ve been in that really now for 30 years or so.

Sustainability came along in the late ’80s to help explain this, the resources that were consumed as part of our society have clear environmental, social, and economic aspects. So I have been involved in sustainable cities really since the ’80s and have tried to see what sustainability means for cities.

We’ve always needed a more sustainable Earth, now it is desperately and critically important that we get moving.

Interviewer: The next question, Sustainable Earth is now open for submissions. Why launch an open access sustainability journal now? What has changed recently to bring sustainability into the foreground?

Peter: Well I’m now on the IPCC, and that is … showing us that the need for the Earth is for rapid transformation. We’ve always needed a more sustainable Earth, now it is desperately and critically important that we get moving.

So what we need is to understand the science of what’s involved in that. What it means for policy, and how the community can grasp that and run with it. To create the momentum for rapid change.

Interviewer: How does the open access nature of the journal contribute to the progress of sustainability research, i.e. why is it important that this journal is open access?

Peter: Well, you cannot do rapid transformational change or contribute to that unless it is communicating simply and easily to not just other scientists but to policy makers and to the community. Because politics is driven by community values, and they need to understand the issues. That is what will drive change.

Interviewer: What can Sustainable Earth achieve that other sustainability publications can’t?

Peter: Well, I think that Sustainable Earth has the opportunity to bring those three areas together. Science, you’ve got to understand the evidence and how we can change. The policy, how we change, how we introduce this into the system, and the community, to see how they can play their role and help to understand it and drive this change.

Unless you have those three elements coming together, you won’t bring about the change that’s needed. Well, this is what is driving Sustainable Earth. It’s a very special new journal.

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